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The Palatinate lies to the left of the Rhine between Alsace, the Saarland and Rheinhessen, forming part of the Upper Rhine plain and western hinterland.

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The landscape is richly varied, with gentle plains, mountains and river gorges. The flattened hilltops and the strange red sandstone rock formations that tower above them in the south of the Palatinate Forest are typical of this diversity. Most of the Palatinate Forest is a designated nature and biosphere reserve.

There is a hint of Tuscany in the air on the eastern slopes of Palatinate hill country. This is the Palatinate wine-growing region where grape varieties thrive in the mild, sunny, Mediterranean climate. Wild sweet chestnut trees, normally only found in southern Europe, grow on the hills on the edge of the Palatinate Forest. Tobacco, figs, kiwis, lemons, almonds and apricots all flourish on the eastern slopes, where they are protected from the wind and enjoy many days of sunshine, giving the area an almost Mediterranean feel.

The Palatinate, the wine cellar of the Holy Roman Empire, is Germany's largest and most productive wine-growing region. It is also a paradise for walkers and cyclists. As long as 2,000 years ago it was the hunting ground of choice for princes, emperors and kings. Of all Germany's regions, the Palatinate has some of the richest historical associations, with Emperor Barbarossa, for example, and the democracy protesters at the Hambach Festival of 1832.

Magnificent edifices, such as the imperial cathedral at Speyer, reflect the Palatinate's colourful past. The legacy of the Salian emperors is very much in evidence in Speyer. No fewer than eight German emperors and kings are buried in the crypt of the 11th-century Romanesque cathedral.

Worms, the home of the Nibelungs Saga, also has a magnificent cathedral. Luther appeared before the Diet of Worms in 1521.

Every October visitors flock to Bad Duerkheim to join the celebrations at the Wurstmarkt, Germany's oldest wine festival. The region's other wine festivals, often including the crowning of a wine queen; also attract large numbers of visitors.

Zweibruecken is a town of roses and horses. 90 years of rose cultivation are celebrated at the Rose Garden of Europe, where an approx. 2.5km footpath/cycle path takes visitors around plantings of wild roses, shrub roses and modern varieties.

Just a few kilometres away is Pirmasens, the centre of the German footwear industry and home to German Footwear Technology College and Museum. If you have a sweet tooth, you'll enjoy Pirmasens' glass chocolate factory, chocolate museum and shop.

The university town of Kaiserslautern is the region's cultural and economic centre. It acquired its grandeur during the twelfth century as the imperial seat of Emperor Barbarossa.

St. James' Pilgrimage Way takes today's visitors to castles, stately homes, abbeys and places of pilgrimage around the Palatinate. Footpaths and cycle trails skirt the meadows on the banks of the Rhine. They also pass golden cornfields, colourful vegetable plantings, fragrant tobacco plots, flower-filled gardens and vineyards, the perfect invitation to discover the Palatinate's many gourmet delights.

The very scenic Kusel area, known as musicians land, is also a must. As you would expect in a region where pleasure is so essential to everyday life, local people place great value on art and culture, both of which the Palatinate has in abundance.

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